The Founding Father of American Volunteerism

Filed in American Culture by on August 17, 2017 0 Comments
Photo Courtesy of Spirit AeroSystems.

Photo Courtesy of Spirit AeroSystems.

Volunteerism has long been rooted in the American spirit, with the country relying on volunteers as far back as the Revolutionary War. That same drive to help and build community continues today, as many Americans turn to volunteerism to aid others, establish community ties, and foster a philanthropic attitude.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the country’s Founding Fathers, is also regarded by many as the founding father of American volunteerism. Prior to Franklin’s reworking of the volunteer system, American volunteerism was implemented through a top-down model—only wealthy community members, churches, and government employees were expected to participate in charitable causes.

Franklin hoped to change that, so he organized what was known as the Junto Club. This group of twelve volunteers was drawn from a diverse group of occupations—printers, bartenders, and cabinetmakers were among the first members—and set out to share their skills with one another and help their neighbors.

Thus, instead of the top-down model used previously, Franklin’s approach worked horizontally across a group of peers. The founding father implemented this same model to create America’s first volunteer firefighting company. This largely hasn’t changed across centuries, as many firefighters are still volunteers today.

Over the years American volunteerism has been on the decline. However, 25 percent of the population still devotes their time to charitable causes at least once a year and many U.S. based non-profit organizations depend on volunteers so they can achieve their mission. What have been your experiences with volunteerism at home or in the U.S.?